Bocconcini cheese consists of bite-sized pearls of mozzarella. It is considered a delicacy in Italy and all over the world. But can I eat bocconcini?… pregnant women may wonder. The short answer is yes but read on to find out more about where it comes from, how to safely store and consume bocconcini, what benefits it may hold for your pregnancy and how to include it in your diet.
What is bocconcini?
Bocconcini is a mild, semi-soft cheese, made in the same style as mozzarella cheese. The mozzarella is formed into small white balls and eaten fresh. The Italian name “bocconcini” literally translates to “small mouthful,” referring to the bite-size of the cheese. This cheese is incredibly creamy, yet very mild and delicate in flavour.
Are there any food safety concerns with bocconcini for pregnant women?
Pregnant women are often told to avoid soft cheeses like camembert and brie. Soft cheeses sometimes contain potentially unsafe microorganisms that are not safe to eat for pregnant women and may cause harm to their unborn baby. The good news is, that bocconcini is a semi-soft cheese, and like other mozzarella cheese, it is usually made from pasteurized milk.
Pasteurization is a process whereby raw milk is thoroughly heated to a high enough temperature to destroy any bacteria or pathogens that may be harmful to you or your unborn baby. Therefore, bocconcini is perfectly safe to eat for pregnant women. Find more information on safe cheeses during pregnancy on the NHS website here.
Avoid any dairy products made from unpasteurized milk to prevent foodborne illness. Unpasteurized or raw milk may be contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria like listeria, which hold a risk for pregnant women and their unborn baby. Symptoms of listeria include fever, nausea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms, it harms your baby’s development or causes miscarriage. If you suspect that you have a foodborne illness, contact your health professional immediately. For more information on listeria and other foodborne illness, please visit the FDA’s website here.
In most developed countries, it is legally required that all dairy products must be made from pasteurized milk. This greatly reduces the risk of foodborne illness and ensures the safety of your unborn baby.
Safe handling and storage of bocconcini
Bocconcini is usually packaged in salty brine in a sealed container. Sterile production and packing procedures ensure no harmful bacteria enter the cheese or packaging material. The brine that the bocconcini cheese is packed in contains a high concentration of salt, which prevents bacterial growth and protects the bocconcini from spoiling.
Always make sure that you only purchase food from reputable sources that follow protocols for safe handling and storage of food. These protocols include storing the bocconcini at 4 C (40 F), and preventing contamination with unsafe chemicals or uncooked raw food.
At home, bocconcini should also be kept refrigerated at 4 C (40 F), in the brine you purchased it in and consumed within the recommended “best before” date.
Nutritional value of bocconcini in pregnancy
Bocconcini is not only safe to eat while pregnant, but also contains several nutrients, including protein and calcium, that may be beneficial for your pregnancy. As the flavour of bocconcini is so delicate and mild, it is also a type of dairy product that is less likely to trigger nausea in pregnant women.
Bocconcini is a source of protein during pregnancy
Bocconcini mozzarella contains 18.5 g of protein per 100 g, which makes it an excellent source of protein. Protein is incredibly important during pregnancy, not only as a source of energy for the expectant mother but also as a building block for the growth of your unborn baby.
Bocconcini as a source of calcium during pregnancy
This cheese also contains 416 mg calcium per 100 g, therefore it is also a good source of calcium.
Calcium is extremely important during pregnancy, as it is required for the growth of your unborn baby’s bones. If the expectant mother does not consume enough calcium in her diet during her pregnancy, the calcium required for her baby’s development is absorbed from her own skeleton. This may lead to decreased bone density and possible osteoporosis later in life for the mother.
Serving size of bocconcini cheese
Most research recommends that pregnant women consume 2 -3 portions of dairy per day, to ensure adequate intake of calcium, but also protein, phosphates and more. The portion size of bocconcini that is usually recommended is about 30g, or the size of a matchbox, but with cheese this delicious, you can easily eat all three recommended portions!
Ways to incorporate bocconcini into your pregnancy diet
These beautifully delicate balls are delicious and creamy as a mouthful on their own, but they also work wonderfully in a range of dishes that may benefit your pregnancy.
Try pairing your bocconcini balls with a boiled egg, some wholewheat crackers and fresh fruit salad for a lonely continental breakfast.
Bocconcini lunch options
Bocconcini makes a wonderful light Caprese salad when paired with fresh tomatoes and basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. This combination also works well as a topping for wholewheat bread as an open-faced sandwich. You can even try the more exotic option of a salad with fresh nectarines, with rocket, sunflower seeds and bocconcini.
Bocconcini snack ideas
The delicate flavour of bocconcini pairs well with figs and walnuts, drizzled with honey for a healthy dessert or snack option.
Bocconcini for supper
Bocconcini balls fit perfectly inside a cannelloni tube. Of course, filling cannelloni with alternating bocconcini balls and cherry tomatoes makes an excellent pasta dish.
Simply arrange the pasta (filled with alternating bocconcini balls and cherry tomatoes) in an ovenproof dish, cover generously with passata sauce, sprinkle over some fresh herbs and more mozzarella, and bake at 180 C (360F) until cooked all the way through and golden on top.
Alternatives to bocconcini cheese
If you are unable to source safe bocconcini, here are some alternative options that you could try.
Cream cheese, ricotta or cottage cheese
These all have a similar mild flavour, and it is easily spreadable on bread if that is something you are looking for. Again, just make sure that you only consume cheese that has been made from pasteurized milk during pregnancy.
Mozzarella di buffala or fior di latte
Both of these cheeses have the same delicate taste and texture, they are simply larger forms and are often easier to find than bocconcini.
Gouda or cheddar
Both of these cheeses are matured, and therefore have slightly stronger flavours than bocconcini. These might work as an alternative for you if you prefer stronger flavoured cheese.
Bite sized tofu balls
These can be used instead of bocconcini if you are looking for a vegan alternative.
Alternatively, you can read more articles on safe and unsafe foods during pregnancy here.
If you require a halaal diet, simply check the label of your bocconcini to see if it has been certified halaal.
If you keep kosher, remember that bocconcini is a dairy product (milchik).
Bocconcini is safe to eat, it is delicious and has some health benefits for expectant mothers. As long as you choose bocconcini that have been made with pasteurized milk, this semi-soft mozzarella cheese carries no risk of foodborne illness and can actually contribute to your health. It is packed with protein, essential for baby’s growth, and calcium for strong bones for mother and baby. Go ahead, mom-to-be, eat your bocconcini! Please follow this link to our app for more information on bocconcini and other great foods you can include in your pregnancy diet.
Frequently asked questions
- Can you eat bocconcini when pregnant?
As long as you ensure that your bocconcini is made from pasteurized milk, it can safely be consumed during pregnancy.
- Is bocconcini made with pasteurized milk?
Bocconcini is usually made from pasteurized milk, and is, therefore, safe to consume during pregnancy.
- Can pregnant women have bocconcini on pizza?
Yes, bocconcini is safe in pregnancy, and on pizza, it is heated to temperatures above 60 C (140F), therefore anything harmful is destroyed. Just be careful not to eat too much, as pizza is quite high in calories.
- Is bocconcini a good source of protein for pregnant women?
Yes, bocconcini cheese contains 18.5 g of protein per 100 g, and is, therefore, an excellent source of protein for expectant mothers.
- Is bocconcini a good source of calcium in pregnancy?
Yes, bocconcini cheese contains 416 mg calcium per 100 g, and is, therefore, a great option for expectant mothers to get their required calcium during pregnancy.